Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Crossbills and a Shore Lark on a Cold Winters Day!

I had the chance to squeeze in a bit of birding between appointments today so started with a visit to Black Down in West Sussex in search of a Parrot Crossbill that had been around for a couple of days. The site was situated on the top of an exposed hill by some ponds where Common Crossbills, and the Parrot, were coming into drink. It was bitterly cold with a brisk north-easterly wind, but I was keen to see the bird so I stuck it out for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, the Parrot didn't show but whilst waiting I was able to get some good views of Common Crossbills.

There were a mixture of sexes and ages present, and even a male bird with a very obvious wing bar on its greater coverts. I studied this bird intently in the hope that it might be a Two-barred Crossbill, but alas it was not!! Despite the wing bar being fairly broad, it was not pure white and crescent shaped like Two-barred, and it didn't show a second white wing bar on the medium coverts. Structurally, the bird was the same size as the accompanying Common Crossbills, and its bill was the same size and shape.....never mind maybe next time, but an interesting bird!

Adult Male Crossbill - Black Down

The Common Crossbills were great though, dropping into small trees, constantly calling before continuing onto the ground to drink. Adult males are brick red in colouration, particularly on the rump, with darker flight feathers.

First Year Male Crossbill - Black Down

Whereas first year males have an orange tone to their colouration, sometimes with patches of green or yellow as in females.

Female Crossbill - Black Down

Female birds are a dull olive-green colour, with a greyish tone and a pale, brighter green rump. The female pictured above is most likely a first year female. Common Crossbills have a moult strategy similar to most European passerines, with adults undergoing a complete moult post breeding, whereas juveniles usually undergo a partial moult, thereby showing a contrast between the inner moulted and outer retained juvenile coverts (as in the bird pictured above).

Shore Lark - Hayling Oysterbeds

Content with my views of Common Crossbills, I headed back home but decided to call into Hayling Island Oysterbeds for another view of the Shore Lark that has been there for a while. The bird tends to feed on a shingle island and so is a little distant, but a cracking bird all the same.

Shore Lark - Hayling Oysterbeds

By now though the wind had really got up, so I didn't stay too long as it was so cold and I was already chilled through to the bone.

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